Thoughts Create Feelings
This is the third of a series introducing the concepts of the model (see bottom left) that I use to coach clients. Today we’re stepping into the second line: “Thoughts”. So far, we’ve learned how to separate your circumstance from your thoughts and why that’s important. We also learned that circumstances are neutral. Today, I’ll expound on the concept that:
It’s our thoughts about a circumstance (and not the circumstance itself) that create our feelings (whether positive or negative).
Usually when I tell client’s this for the first time, they have the same response. They tilt their head slightly and then fall silent, with perplexed expression while considering its validity. They know this on a cognitive level, but in the moment, it doesn’t feel true. Part of this is due to our culture, and part of it is from our well-meaning caregivers who intended to teach us empathy and manners. All our lives we’ve heard things like:
“Did she hurt your feelings?” “You’re making mommy upset.” “It made me so mad!” In fact, when Eleanor Roosevelt told us that no one could make us feel inferior without our consent, America was shocked by this new revelation and quoted her in the history books! The idea is still challenged today-every time we blame our circumstance for how we feel. The fact that it’s not the circumstance, but rather our thoughts about it that are making us feel “bad” is actually the best.news.ever. Because if it’s the circumstance that’s making us feel bad, we’re out of luck.
The only chance we would have of feeling better would be to change the circumstance. Which usually means changing someone else. By the time people see a coach, they’ve already been trying to change the circumstance (including other people) with no success. But if it is in fact your thoughts that are making you feel bad, you’ve just regained all your power, my friends. It means you are not a victim to your feelings. You now understand where they are coming from, which is also the key to how to change them.
So are we just supposed to change our thoughts to feel good about everything? Absolutely not. We don’t want to feel good about everything. A parent who loses a child does not want to feel good about his/her death. (Although even this is an assumption on my part. I can comprehend how a parent who has watched their child fight a lifelong battle with a terminal illness may feel relieved and comforted knowing their child is finally at peace in heaven.) I also believe that “negative” emotions such as guilt serve a useful purpose and are not to be avoided. Tomorrow we’ll delve into “Feelings”, but for now, just recognize that thoughts are what cause our feelings, and those thoughts are optional.
Application Building off the application exercise from yesterday, list each of the thoughts you have about the circumstance that you’re struggling with. Again, use bullet-point format to keep your thoughts concise. List as many thoughts you have about it as possible. As I say to my clients, “Tell me everything.” When you’ve finished your list, try to loosen the bolts on the thoughts your brain is holding so tightly. How might someone else think about this circumstance? Try to think of even one person who would have a different view-who wouldn’t be phased by your circumstance and write down what you imagine he/she might think.
We ALL get tripped up by our thoughts.
To prove it, I’ll share my recent mind drama when I spent an entire day creating videos for my coaching clients. I’d written the content, researched & downloaded the software, tested my sound and camera, and shot 3 1/4 videos when my screen froze and a rude message indicated my (4 month-old!) hard drive was out of space. To beat that, my mic. had stopped working halfway through the first one. When I met with my coach the next day, she got what I thought was an objective report of what had happened. “I”m just so frustrated by the technology!” Did you catch it? Because of my circumstance.
First, she asked for the facts: “I made 3 videos without sound and am out of hard drive space.” Then she asked, “So what?” I told her that “The tech keeps hanging me up. It’s causing all these delays and costing me time.” She asked what our master coach probably thinks when her technology doesn’t work as planned. I thought for a bit and then imagined: “I’ll figure it out. I’ve figured out lots of tech. already. I don’t need the videos. I can just teach the content in their sessions. The videos are just a bonus. With all the videos and content I’m creating, I should probably get an external drive anyway.” And then my coach asked me two questions that made me laugh out loud: “Could you record the videos without a mic.?” (That hadn’t even crossed my mind. I was too focused on what I’d planned to see what was possible.) And my personal favorite, “What if this is exactly how you learn technology?” Mind. Blown. Of course. We can’t learn anything without the learning process. We’ve never done anything until we do it for the first time. Nothing has gone wrong here.
A final thought to borrow When I get really stuck believing a circumstance is negative & causing my feeling, this is my favorite thought: “God’s got this. I’m only seeing the underside of the tapestry He’s weaving, but He’s got a much clearer view & is working all things together for good.
Not sure how to apply this to your own life? Why not do a mini session with me?
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